As I mentioned in a recent post (Aerial Capture of 3D Geometry), I was hoping to attend a test flight of the remote controlled Octo-Copter that captured photos that were then used to automatically generate a 3D model using Autodesk 123D Catch. Last Thursday the weather and my schedule aligned and I joined Autodesk employee Gonzalo Martinez Director of Strategic Research in San Rafael California for test flight of the 8 bladed aerial copter. The eight rotor aircraft can operate 100% autonomous based on a programmed GPS route and patterns or if you are skilled you can run in manual pilot mode.
Here is the video from this test flight:
The Octo-Copter can reach 3500 meters flying by First Person View (FPV) or 1000 meters distance if flying autonomous GPS in accordance with FAA rules for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The current payload can be up to 2 kg such as cameras sensors, and a fluffy puppy. OK there was no puppy onboard the copter, but as smooth and safe as the flight was we could have. If I weighed in under 2Kg, I would have happily climbed aboard for the flight.
During flight the Octo-Copter transmits a live video feed FPV back to a remote LCD screen or video display goggles. This allows the pilot to see what the Octo-Copter sees like a virtual onboard pilots eyes. I felt a little weird when wearing the goggles seeing the live video looking down from a few hundred meters zooming along like a bird. It was as if I had channeled my inner falcon for an out of body experience.
We had one person show up to the field we were flying from reporting that a couple people a few streets over had reported they saw a UFO or some secret police surveillance drone. We set this persons mind at ease and told him it was just a research project to capture 3D geometry of the Autodesk headquarters located across the field from us.
The possibilities for aerial 3D capture are wide from construction to historical preservation. Research is continuing on the Reality Capture whether on the ground and in the air.